Friday, 29 October 2004

Open House Rehearsals

Next week is "Open House" week, whereby the school throws its door open for the parents to sit in through classes. Well, it's not quite as open an invitation as that, but from Tuesday to Friday next week the parents of the kindergarten students are invited to sit through an especially staged, phoney and rehearsed lesson.

The rehearsals have been this week. It's just 20 minutes with each class, half the usual time, and the director wants it all to be smooth, professional and seamless, which is something teaching can never be. Therefore, she has sat in each class and provided her constructive criticism after. Actually, wipe constructive from that last sentence.

Today's fake lesson was Ocean Class, eight very pleasant but usually happily disorganised children with no attention span. Half my lesson is spent just making sure they are all sitting down and paying even a little attention.

But today, they were on immaculate behaviour. Sat at their desks neatly, politely responding to my questions, speaking in chorus when required. Once or twice, a head would slowly begin to sink into hands or eager writing in their book would begin prematurely, but the director immediately snapped them into line with a series of furious barks in Korean. I tell you, the director scares me so she can only be the stuff of the most dreadful nightmares for these poor children. When she gets angry, which is often, she looks like a bullfrog injected with testosterone.

And so, with her sitting at the back, there was no way these poor little kids were going to make even the slightest move towards insuborbination. It was one of the easiest lessons I've had with them, as they sat and listened and remained calm and quiet.

The director's constructive criticism? That the kids weren't active enough. That they weren't seeming to enjoy the lesson as much as they might. That I should try and make it a little more fun and maybe include a game. I think it went beyond her comprehension that her barked tirades were affecting the usual behaviour of the students.

At least it went better than yesterday's class, a damned gym lesson for Forest Class, the tiniest class of all. I cannot stand this class, or this age group rather. They are all just a bunch of mini-spastics at that age, and so they proved to be when I tried to structure a gym lesson for them. They were all over the place, much less ordered than usual due to the director and another teacher standing next to them. Not barking angrily this time, but the change from the routine was enough to confuse the kids. The criticism after this class wasn't, oddly, that there was no apparent order or sense to the lesson and that the kids weren't paying any attention, but that I needed to use more English. Like get the kids to say "I will catch the ball", "I can jump" and "I enjoy learning English in Castle School and find each lesson well prepared and stimulating, and feel it could only be positive for my development for my parents to continue paying for me to go here."

Tuesday's lesson was with Rainbow class, and went perfectly, so no remarks were received after that one, which I take as positive.

I've only got another eight weeks at this school now, and I'm quite relishing leaving. The kids are great, I get free reign in my classes (mostly) but the hours are too long and I'm just starting to get fed up with the place, and always feeling tired. So, in January, a nice long holiday and then I'll be looking for a new job.

The Director Isn't Always Evil

I'm feeling much better after my grumpiness over the last few days. And I'm feeling much mellower towards my director too, who has been a little less demonic since I wrote yesterday.

Yeah, at yesterday's final class, a time when the school is at its quiestest as only six students are there for Thursday's final classes, I saw from my window the teachers gathered round the table in the staffroom, eating away. I rubbed my stomach, letting them know I was hungry, joking. And a few minutes later, a knock on the door and it was my director with some hot pastry-type foods she'd bought from outside for me to have and share in my class. So that was nice.

And today was another rehearsal for next week's "Open House" and I nailed it. It was Cosmos Class, and they were perfect, both well-behaved but suitably excited enough for the director. At the end, she even said "Good job" to me.

It's been quite a hard week overall though, "Open House" just a small factor, the main factor is that I can now see the end. Two months exactly will be my final day. I had wanted to extend my contract my a couple of months, but as I'd be leaving at the same time as David, this wasn't possible. And so, with the end nigh I've been quite restless this week, thinking too much of future plans than on what I'm doing right now.

Future plans were orginally to travel through Russia with Matt, but this has been delayed by a year due to financial reasons, mainly ones connected with expensive renovations to my flats in Aberdeen. Hence, come January I'll be taking a holiday and then looking for another job, probably in Daegu again. I've got plenty of time to scope out a job I like, with shorter and less tiring hours than my current one. I would like to retain a job that allows a degree of flexibility in my teaching however, as I know some teachers are set like clocks to rigid cirriculums.

On other news, it's almost Halloween and to celebrate this, David has painted his face green to look like a monster, and stuck half a ping pong ball over his right eye to further monsterify himself. Little Tom, a space cadet in Forest class, was apparently in terrifed tears over this alarming sight.If I was four years old again, I think I would be too, and that's with David even without the monster make-up.

Wednesday, 27 October 2004


I'm feeling irrationally angry today.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Saturday Night's Suspected Date

One of my favourite things about Korea are the dancing girls. I don't think I've talked about the dancing girls before, but they cannot fail to cheer my heart whenever I see them.

Invariably, when a new shop opens in Korea (which is often), the dancing girls are dragged out to perform. In front of the main door an archway made from balloons is placed, and to the side of this archway two podiums sit. And on these podiums two pretty young girls, clad in plastic with dinky skirts, dance to utterly ludicrous techno. These poor girls can be seen in both the height of summer and the depths of winter, bopping for hour upon hour.

This weekend had some dancing girls of a different variety, that of girls not clad in plastic skirts and dancing outside shops, but within a nightclub though to equally mental music.

On Saturday evening I met with Jessy, real name "Suk-jeong" the glam-girl ex-teacher from my school. After last week's suspected date, I was to meet her friends and go drinking. We met and had a meal first, at a busy and bright restaurant with a man dressed as Spiderman outside. This man was leaping about enthusiastically, and this ploy appeared to successfully draw in an unending stream of customers. Later, he began waiting on the tables, which was an odd sight.

Suk-jeong's friends, Min-jeong joined us. Suk-jeong, being highly attractive, meant that her friend was likewise very attractive, and this is the great advantage of knowing attractive people. Min-jeong couldn't speak much English but was a lively girl and my Korean was good enough to have patches of chat with her.

We soon moved from this bright, Spiderman-filled restaurant to a bar, which was darker, cosier, and quieter, and with a good atmosphere, and out came the soju.

At this point I became a little nervous, I admit. Yes, nervous. I haven't felt nervous about drinking with a lady for a long time. But I think it was because it was quite clear that what I was on was some kind of date, and I've never been on a date before. I mean, dating has always been a totally alien concept to me. And this was a date with an exceptionally attractive girl too.

Thankfully, a few shots of soju calmed the nerves, and helped my Korean to flow, which was in fairly good form on Saturday night. It goes in waves, from being able to speak quite well (relatively) to forgetting even the basics, but it was in a healthy state that night. Suk-jeong's English is far better than my Korean anyway, so most actual conversing was done in English, but with frequent little bursts of Korean.

A friend of theirs then joined us, this time a guy, with only fragmentory English but a naturally entertaining manner. I got on with him quite well, he relaxed the proceedings a little and I think he paid for all the food and drinks too. Koreans often like to do this - pay for everything - and he did it so stealthily I wasn't aware it happened. I suspect too that he paid for all the drinks in the nightclub we then went to, as I certainly didn't and never had even the vaguest opportunity to do so.

So we moved to a nightclub then, but a Korean one and so only a distant relation of what the term nightclub meant to me back in Scotland. It's got music and alcohol I suppose, but everything else has a different twist. Crazy pop-techno that doesn't belong in any era, distinctly homo-erotic Korean male dancers onstage, vast numbers of seats with a dancing podium plunked in the middle with about enough space for 15 people to dance, and hundreds of waiters, possibly equalling the numbers of customers. This is a phenomenon not restricted to nightclubs but to supermarkets too, and makes me wonder how on earth these venues can make profit when there are legions of employees swarming but doing very little of actual use.

In the nightclub we were joined by Min-jeong's sister and a few other attractive female friends. Beers appeared on our table, along with the obligatory tray of fruit apparently essential to all nightclub proceedings, and the night blurred along enjoyably. There was some dancing, some munching of fruit, some drinking, and some talking in broken English and Korean. One girl gave me her monkey. This isn't a euphimism, she actually gave me her monkey teddy and insisted I wear it round my neck.

It was a good night then, finishing at about 4am. Whether a date or not I still don't know, but I do know that I've been invited to Geoje-do with Suk-jeong and some others I think. Geoje-do is a small but very attractive island on the south coast, and the plan is to go there in a few weeks for the weekend.

Sunday was quite rough and I didn't do much. I wasn't too drunk on Saturday night, but soju is a nasty substance sometimes and hence I took a gentle Sunday of relaxing, drinking juice, and eventually studying Korean. A good weekend though, overall.

Monday, 25 October 2004


I notice some of the younger boys, after having been to the toilet, get a teacher to zip them back up. But whenever I try this, I get a slap.

Friday, 22 October 2004

Upcoming Open Day

Apparently next week is an open day for the school. This means that the parents of the children (just kindergarten I think) are allowed to sit in on the classes.

This is worryingly me deeply, as it means I'll have to change my teaching policy of the last nine months, which is "no clothes below the waist".

What it does mean, actually, is that the kids will probably be hyper well-behaved. Any time in the past when I've had someone else in the class, the kids miraculously sit quietly and listen.

Here are some other things I probably won't do when the parents are in the room:
- crack noisy kids hard on the skull with my marker pen
- get quickly restless in a quiet room of working children and start making silly noises or humming songs
- picking children up from their chairs and whirling them about, for no good reason
- demand absolute silence then pace about for a couple of minutes doing nothing but enjoying the peace
- messing about with my cassette recorder, making it do silly noises that the kids quickly tire of, but oddly I never do
- Simon Says "fight"

I may play my inordinately popular "Quiet" game. I like this game a lot, and so do the easily-manipulated children. The aim of the game is to remain quiet, and those who make a noise lose the game. Playing this game guarantees a good five minutes of determined silence.

I've only got about another 9 working weeks until finishing at my school forever. I've decided to join the British Army afterwards. Wait, that's not true, I'm probably going to take a leasurely holiday and find a new job,

Tomorrow, I'm meant to be going out with ex-teacher glam girl Jessy. She's really very attractive, so I'm going to be very pleasant and charming, and then ply her full of spirits till she's comprehensively plastered and send her into a whole new world of pain and regret.

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Naturally Mournful Children

In the kindergarten, of course, most children are stupendously happy in that mindless way only young children can manage. They never walk, only run, and delight overcomes them numerous times on a daily basis, so much so that their only means of expression is to yell and scream. Their numerous petty squabbles and bad tempers have vanished from their memories almost as soon as they have occurred. In their youth they cannot appreciate how precious their innocence will one day seem, as the future holds for them many revelations of a dark, brutal, cynical cold world full of fermenting evil and diabolical ruinations.

This applies to the majority of the kindergarten anyway, who spend their days in happiness. However, there are a couple of young tots who already show signs of a predeliction for gloom. With naturally doom-ridden faces, their happiness is tempered by early sparks of self-absorbed introspection and over-sensitive pessimism.

These two children are Samuel and Alex.

Samuel is in Rainbow class. He is quite sweet, and his mother evidently takes great care in styling his hair, as he ranges from a mini-Elvis to the slicked back style of the yuppy 80s. He speaks in a quiet and croaky voice, and is prone to bursts of irrational excitement. Just as quick though, bursts of devasted misery are prone to overwhelm him, and he has a face moulded perfectly for this. His face seems to droop, just like the Warner Brothers cartoon dog, and his eyes sag from the pressures of his young life. A simple question answered wrong can trigger a world of torment for this poor little chap, as his lips tremble in sadness and he is unable to prevent the tears welling in his eyes before becoming a flood of tears, which he buries in his arms with his face. His dark eyes stare hauntingly at you, as if a puppy dog being boxed up and sent to its fate downriver.

Alex is a year or two younger, in Forest class. He isn't prone to crying, but nor is he ever prone to great displays of happiness. Already at this young age, he is a ghost, a faint shadow in the classroom. His face is pulled down, long and empty of emotion. He is always pale. His greatest excitement seems to be when questioned about a letter of the alphabet, which he invariably identifies as "K". Gym class holds few thrills, as while the others run around gaily, he frequently slinks in a corner unwilling to participate. He's neither bright or popular, and is ignored more than he is pushed around. This is not to mean he is without his spells of impish pleasure, but too often when running about in excitement, his is actually just trailing behind the other members of his class, unsure exactly what the source of joy is but just instinctively feeling he should be part of it.

As the traditional Korean society based on Confucianism decays under the overwhelming force of Westernisation, capitalism and globalisation, the community spirit is one of the first things to be shattered. The suicide rate in Korea is climbing, as a sense of isolation cripples those who feel they have no place in this new, impersonal society. Without a community to be embraced and controlled by - for better and for worse - there is no system of support for the lonely. Thus, annually, the suicide rate in Korea climbs.

Samuel and Alex are but young children, with an unknown future ahead of them. But even in these days of youthful reckless hedonism, demons haunt their joy. Let's pray for these sweet little angels and for the years ahead of them, and hope they always find an embracing community to shelter them from the torments of depression.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Short Lesson in Korean

Korean is a very difficult language to learn. Here are a handful of the words that I've struggled to deal with.

I've written the Korean version phonetically.

Banana - ba-na-na
Juice - joo-suh
Internet - in-tuh-net-tuh
Shopping - shyo-peeng
Card - cad-uh
Building - beeld-eeng
Computer - com-pyoo-tah
Stress - suh-tuh-res-suh (say it fast)

I'll leave you hanging as to meanings of the following words: tel-leh-bi-syon, ra-dee-o, ah-ees-kuh-reem.

Monday, 18 October 2004

Noble Korean Motivations

Every Saturday I have my Korean class at the YMCA downtown. I enjoy my Korean class a lot, in large part because I enjoy learning Korean. However, the reason I'm really enjoying it these days is because I'm the best in the class.

My motivation for wanting to learn Korean is a little uncertain. Of course, it should be to open up a culture and educate me to the land I'm living in. I suppose that may be a minor reason lurking somewhere within me. But what really drives me to learn Korean is just two things: the women and the chance to be smug every week at my YMCA class.

There are about 10 people in the class, all supposedly at the same level, but ranging from poor to, well, me. The reason I'm so good isn't because I'm gifted with unnatural intelligence, it's simply because I've been studying very hard for longer than some of these people. Regardless though, I have to suppress my smug smile when I hear them struggling with coursework than I covered ages ago and understand fully.

Yes, I am a complete prick.

Most of the class are simply about average for their level, but there are a couple of competitors for my self-proclaimed position as best of the class. There is Sherry, a Canadian, who was in my previous class too and I think puts in a lot of work. Her vocabulary and understanding is very good. I suspect she has some Korean friends too who help her.

Then there's a Japanese girl, called Yuzuki, or something mental like that. The Japanese have got a headstart because their language resembles Korean structurally. Yuzuki doesn't make the class every week, but she appears to have a very grasp of the language, and often knows words which I don't, something which always causes alarm.

There's also some guy called David, who appears to have a grip on things. His (probably Canadian) accent is still too strongly heard when he speaks Korean though.

Actually, all my childlike competitive smugness aside, I think I am a fairly constructive part of the class, as our teacher can sometimes rattle on in Korean to the bewilderment of many, but because I've studied it before I can explain some of the unclear points.

So, being a cocky prick in Korean class is one motivating factor that drives me to learn. Another one, of course, is the ladies.

Last night I went for dinner with "Jessy", the glam-girl ex-teacher of my school. We met last week for the first time, to practice Korean and English and it went well, and so this time we met downtown and went for a meal.

Again, very pleasant, and afterwards we saw a film (Collatororoeoal with Tom Cruise, which was great except the silly ending) and have agreed to meet again next Saturday for a meal and drinks and meet some of her friends. And it was during this I thought, "hang on, is this a lesson or a date?"

You see, it was structured very much like a date, and felt like one, although as I've never been on a date I don't really know. Dating has always seemed a strange American phenomenon, whereas in Scotland dating is replaced usually by "drink, bang, regret".

Whatever it was, I don't mind as it's all very helpful to my noble pursuit of learning Korean. Although Jessy may not be the best teacher because I can't help but fixate on her breasts every time she's around. Her breasts get in the way not just of my Korean speaking, but of my English speaking too.

Other stuff that happened this weekend was getting quite drunk on Saturday night, for the first time in a while. A mostly fun night, and I was in especially charming form once again. Until I had one drink too many and ended up in a noraebang, whereby I turned into a complete spastic, unable to function. Hence on Sunday I was more or less crippled by pain. I ended up going to a lake and watching Matt waterskiing, along with Rebecca and two others - Owen (the guy who looks like a giant baby) and his girlfriend Fiona.

I'm a little tired now, so I'm going to stop writing, and charge myself up for the 6 classes that still remain today.

Monday, 11 October 2004

Weekend Report

I hope everyone had a pleasant weekend. Mine was enjoyable, but possibly more inclined towards amiable than adrenalin-packed excitement.

Friday night was my evening drinking with the Gin Girls. You can trust me that I had some marvellously dark designs on the night, but the reality was actually a far more civilised event. We just had a couple of cocktails at a bar downtown. My dreams of plying the girls with gin still remains an unrealised ambition because when the girls were choosing their cocktail I had no idea which would contain gin. If anybody knows, please let me know.

Anyway, over time I'm realising that the girls are a little conservative. I mean that in a complimentary way too. They're fun and good company but I think lead a quieter life than I. Daegu is the most conservative city in Korea and I see this reflected. Hence, they were not desperate to throw themselves into a world of beer, vomitting and falling downstairs so I suppose I'll have to retain some of my old friends for that. They are, however, delightfully and charmingly polite. Maybe they are even a good influence on me. Good Lord.

Saturday was my Korean class, followed by lunch at my new favourite restaurant, a small Japanese place. I'm enjoying my Korean class, if only because I'm way ahead of most others. I feel very smug and self-satisfied. My bubble of invincibility from last week has burst though, as I've come back down to earth and realised that although progressing in Korean well, I still have a long, long way to go. I'm not going to be entering any Korean debating contests anytime soon.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I rested at my place then in the evening saw a film with Matt called "The Girl Next Door" which was diverting. A drink and then home.

Yesterday's main event was a new student of mine, that is a new Korean/English lesson. It was with Jessy, the school glamour girl who left last week. She needs to practice her English and as she's very attractive I was happy to help. She's able to explain why my mistakes in Korean are wrong too, which the Gin Girls were unable to do. However, as her English is reasonable it's a little easy to revert to it when I'm tryng to say something difficult.

Anyway, it was the first lesson and it went really well. It lasted 3 and a half hours, which is crazy time, and just flew by. Time flies when you're having fun, I suppose, and although probably of minimal use to my Korean, I was quite engrossed with staring at her breasts to be honest.

She's invited me to a wedding too. It's in December, some friends of her. Korean weddings are supposed to be very tacky affairs, conducted like a gaudy business reception, and seems to take about 20 minutes, so it sounds interesting.

Sunday evening, I met with Maebh, who took me out for a meal of "Shabu-shabu" which involves dipping thin slices of meat into hot water and cooking them, then eating with little balls of rice, and is very tasty indeed. I taught Maebh some Korean grammar then, as she is keen to learn but hasn't worked much on the grammatical side, which is my strength.

And now today, which is always my hardest day at work, but went ok. Especially because I killed the final class, not literally, but killed the spirits of the annoying children. It was very satisfying.

I'm hungry now. I hope you all have a truly wonderful day, full of joys that can only be expressed in shining displays of love. I'm going to go home and masturbate myself dry now. Christ, I can't say that, my mother reads this. I'm going to watch TV and rest.

Thursday, 7 October 2004


About four weeks ago I cut my hair, which may seem a trival incident to bring up now, but I regret not writing it about it at the time.

You see, my hair was becoming really quite long and unkempt, and made me look like some sort of wild tramp. Also, the length at the back made me appear, from certain angles, to have a mullet in an early stage of formation. While a mightily admirable hairstyle, it perhaps wasn't right for me at this stage in my life, so finally it had to go.

I wanted to get rid of all this excess hair a long time before, but couldn't. Even through the sticky heat of summer, I allowed the hair on my head to keep growing. Not through choice, but to win an important bet I'd made with Matt in February. Simply, we bet each not to cut our hair until September 11th, and the winner would get 20,000 Won (about £10). Matt gave in after just a few weeks, quite pathetically, but I endeavoured on and when it got to the point - about July - where my hair was becoming silly, I'd gone too far to chop it all off.

Anyway, I won my bet and could do my head a mercy and remove the hair. I didn't cut it too short, just a neat going-over with the clippers. I look quite, quite different.

It was the reaction the next day in school that made this all so memorable. I definitely looked better, but to children who have been used to Nev-teacher with lots of hair, any change from the status quo seems odd, and they were not reticent in showing this.

I tell you, it's a sobering experience to walk into 9 classes of 12 children in the course of a day, and to have each class literally screaming with laughter. Not just laughing, but shouting and yelling with delerium. As if it was the craziest, strangest, most peculiar thing they had ever seen, not to mention perpetrated by this white monkey of a teacher.

The laughter abated after a couple of days, although the whispers of "Nebu mori" (Nev-hair) took a lot longer. The kids have got used to my new, improved look and I am certainly much happier. Apart from being a hell of a lot easier to deal with, it looks far more civilised and I wouldn't say it unlikely for the upturn in my charms.

It shouldn't have to be said, however, that no such drastic action will be done to my beard, claimed sometimes to be magical. I would rather lose a finger than my beard. Although probably I wouldn't go as far to lose an entire limb. But sometimes you just don't know how you'd choose until forced with the decision. Let's pray I never have to make that choice.

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

My Magical Beard

I received this email from my sister today:

hey, just read your travel diary- you man-whore! How many women do you
meet in one week that want to have your babies?! I find this quite
astonishing- do you hyponise them with your beard? I know it's a novelty
over there, but surely yours must have some magical power!

Yes, I do indeed have a magical, hyptonising beard. But I do take issue with the term "man-whore". Since my transformation into a well-groomed, well-dressed gentleman, my intentions are unequivocably honourable, and my charms are pure and good.

Tuesday, 5 October 2004

Good Korean Progress

I've had a revelatory few days regarding my ongoing pursuit of learning Korean. Although progressing steadily anyway, something must have clicked because the language has suddenly snapped into focus and months of fragments have pieced together to create a clear, and rather wonderful, picture.

Ok, so don't assume anything near decently conversational yet, but last night with the Gin Girls was perhaps by best evening of Korean speaking yet. Learning Korean is like climbing a gigantic mountain, perpetually shrouded in heavy fog so that you never really know how far up you are, only that it's very steep. But sometimes you reach a certain peak and the mist clears from below, and you get a fabulous view of what you have already climbed. The last few days have seen me climbing particularly fast as I've gone into 5th gear with my studies and the view is great.

It was the first time I'd seen the Gin Girls in a couple of weeks, due to the Chuseok break. I met them after work, so I was pretty fatigued, but somehow sensed that I'd gained a lot of understanding in that time. And it turned out to be the best lesson we'd had.

It wasn't even a lesson, actually. Usually we'll have a fragmented chat on what we've been doing before having to use the book we study from. But yesterday the chat just kept going and, aside from taking a few notes on new words, it was more just like we were talking. It was mostly all done in Korean, but for one of the first time, I was able to say just about everything I wanted to. It was a very good feeling - perhaps like hauling myself up a vertical surface to find a pleasant gentle downwards slope to stroll along.

Even better is this coming Friday. The Gin Girls, perhaps subconsciously aware of their name, have invited me out for drinks. This is at a bar called AU, downtown, a new, spacious and well-atmosphered bar that I've been to a number of occasions. This must be my prime opportunity to lather them with alcohol (namely gin cocktails) before sending them into a world of sin.

Despite my dreadfully ignoble intentions, the Gin Girls have been very productive for my Korean. I can still remember out first few meetings, about three months ago, in which my Korean was sparse and proceedings were conducted in English. Now it's majority Korean.

I have a long way to go before being any good at Korean, but I have some very solid foundations under me now. Learning Korean is perhaps the best thing I've done in Korea and I don't think it an exaggeration to describe it as one of most satisfying experiences of my life. Whereas once, taxi drivers (for example) would ask me a simple question and I would have to respond with an apologetic noise, now I understand and can begin a usually very amusing and patchy conversation. I think I'm beginning to reach the stage where a lot of my learning will be done, not just by self-study, but by interaction. And that, it is certain, is the whole purpose of learing a language: to interact.

So today I am in a good mood. Not just from the prospect of corrupting two sweet Korean girls, but from the sense of achievement of having really learned something.

And now the bell has gone and it is time for me to pass that sense of achievement into the hearts and minds of some very restless 4-year-olds.

Sunday, 3 October 2004

Charming Nev

I got back from holiday on Thursday. Not a big holiday, just Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, but it was a very restful few days. The holiday was due to Chuseok, a big thanksgiving type holiday whereby half of Korea travels across the country on the same day to spend a few days at the grandmother's home (I think, or something like that).

Originally I'd planned to visit Busan for a couple of days, with Rebecca and a few other ladies, but this plan was somewhat scuppered by my failing to wake up on time. Inexplicably, on Monday morning, I only woke at 9.50am, which was the exact time I was supposed to meet everyone at the train station. Usually, I'll be awake by 8am at the latest. And as I didn't have anybody's phone number, or those I did had recently lost their phone, I couldn't catch up with them later.

So my only plan for the holiday was abandoned, but I was quite glad as I don't think Busan would have been anything special. Instead it gave me a perfect opportunity to savour a few days of peace and tranquility, studying Korean and relaxing.

And it also gave me the unintended opportunity to charm the ladies.

I've been very charming with the ladies recently. And when I say that, I don't mean that my dirty little man downstairs has been sleazing around and spraying his grubby muck willy-nilly, no I mean I've been charming and pleasant and entirely unlike the true sordid character that lurks within. My now feeble but just capable grasp of Korean is beginning to reap dividends. Last Saturday I was out with Tim, as he has moved to Seoul for a new job. With Tim were a few Korean friends that don't speak any English, or speak very little. So the entire night had to be conducted in Korean.

Now, for not one second do I pretend our conversation was anything but numbingly bad. Stuff like "What do you study?", "When do you graduate?" and "Do you like beer?" were the highlights, although I did make a joke in very fragmented Korean about if "I sing then ears are sick". Fortunately Koreans are usually very accommodating with our dreadful stabs at their language, and because both me and Tim are eager learners and good company then they happily tolerated us.

There were three Koreans with us that night. One was a girl I've met a few times, a very funny girl and full of life, although quite frankly looks like a dog that's been hit by a shovel. I know that may sound cruel but it's simply descriptive, you must trust me. Her boyfriend (I think) was there too, a gentle, laid back guy who didn't resemble any kind of animal, hit by a shovel or not. The third was a girl, a very cute girl studying Beauty Therapy or some nonsense like that in university/college.

After a few beers, my Korean started to flow and it really was much easier to speak it. We moved onto a very busy club where conversation became secondary to limited dancing in a very small space, but whether it be by the power of words or simply the thrust of my dancing, I seemed to get on quite well with this "Beauty Therapist". I hasten to add, once more, that I was Charming Nev and not Sleazy Nev, and so at the end of the night I got her phonenumber without once trying to haul her off to my apartment for some fast pumping. I suppose I'll have to phone her, but I can't for the life of me remember her name and my Korean over the phone is many times worse than it is in person. She was very, very cute though, and being a Beauty Therapist I'm sure her level of intelligence is about on a par with my child-like grasp of Korean.

That was my Saturday night of being charming then. The previous week I procured another phonenumber, from an ethnically Korean but American adopted girl. She's fully American, culturally, but was born in Korea and adopted overseas. She's a friend of Rebecca's, a new teacher in the school, and for the first month I wrote her off as attractive but boring, but in a head to head fight between the two, attractive always overcomes boring. Anyway, the Saturday before last we met after a Korean class and went to some workshop type thing dealing with traditional Korean culture. This is all the usual stuff like making rice cakes, wearing silly clothes and elaborate bowing, although was quite interesting. That night, a large group of was out on a combined leavning night (of Nicky, Pam and maybe someone else) and this girl - Jamaleh is her name - became quite interesting, She doesn't drink, which at first appalled me, but this is because of her religion. She was brought up as Bahai, which is a small religion started about 150 years ago. I've heard of it because their main temple is in Haifa in Israel, which I visited three years ago. It's a large temple on a hill with a line on amazingly symmetrical gardens running both up and down the hill from it.

Anyway, once again I was on exemplary behaviour, although that is probably only because the night rumbled on till about 9am and by this stage I was simply too exhausted to be sleazy, and was far too conscious of the fact that she was completely sober, which is something I can't handle when I'm drunk.

I have been doing many things besides being charming, I should mention. Studying Korean primarily, which I continue to enjoy, and general socialising. I was very glad of my holiday this week though, which was what I was meaning to write about here, as teaching 43 classes a week for the last two months gets pretty damn tiring, and hence when I missed my train to Busan it was a perfect opportunity to completely relax and recharge some energy. Which I very successfully did.

I did little on Monday except stay at home, study Korean, and rewrite some of last year's photo diary. I had a small opportunity to be charming however, when I ventured onto my rooftop to enjoy the sunshine. Alas, my powers of charm were only allowed to be used upon a lady of perhaps 90 years of age, although a very friendly one. She was small, thin and wiry and the pressures of 90 years of living - through Japanese occupation, WW2 and the Korean War - had evidently been a big burden upon her as she couldn't stand straight and instead shuffled around like a hunched, dying crone. She tried speaking to me but I couldn't make out much of what she was saying, although it seemed like she was maybe saying she had no family to be with over Chuseok. In which case would be quite sad. That could be a complete misinterpretation however. I know she lived in the area as I was able to ask her that. She was arranging fruit on the rooftop to dry, and while doing this stared at me the entire time. Not a hostile stare, just an ongoing friendly, curious look. She gave me some small fruit which I politely ate. They were hard and disgusting.

Tuesday my luck with the ladies continued, but improved as I managed to cut 70 years off the age, get an English speaker and someone who could stand up straight too.

It was all very unexpected. I'd expected my Tuesday to be much like the Monday, except I took a trip downtown to see what was happening. Not much. Tuesday was the main day of Chuseok and so most shops were closed, and it was probably surprising that any were open at all. Quite a few people were about, although not half as many as you'd expect usually. The bookstore wasn't open so I was unable to buy anything, so just went to a coffeeshop to drink coffee and rewrite some photo diary. Just innocently minding my own business.

Until I caught the eye of some young lady.

Although I'm quite happy to be approached, it doesn't often happen because either I walk around too fast or when I'm stationary I pay little attention to my surroundings and never look anyone in the eye. I probably appear a shifty character to some. This day, in the coffeeshop, I certainly had no idea who was around me, and noticed only the blur of Korean conversation. Until some yellow appeared before me, and a voice asked if it could join me.

This has never happened to me in a coffeeshop before, and I doubt it does happen much except in episodes of Friends. So what luck it was that when it did happen, it wasn't some freaky 55 year old Australian with unwashed hair, a desperately lonely man from Hull, or some fat Canadian, but a very attractive Korean girl.

Well, of course, I said, please join me, and we started talking. Her English was absolutely fluent, flawless and better than many native speakers, and I had to ascertain that she wasn't American at first. She explained that she wasn't at home with her family - as is usual during the main day of Chuseok - because of an argument with her mother about her being lazy and not helping with the traditional female duties of cleaning up the dishes. She'd phoned a friend to meet her for a coffee but had got a phonecall from the friend shortly after saying that her young child had fallen down the stairs and had to be taken to hospital. When she laughed as she told me this, I knew I liked this girl.

We sat and drank coffee together and chatted away about anything. At first the usual ice-breaker of where I'm from and cultural differences and such. But this progressed onto other tangents and I learnt quite a lot of interesting things. Such as, she claimed, 2 out of every 10 young women in Korea have had plastic surgery. This seems quite incredible but she's not the first person I've heard say such a thing, indeed, Korea is reputed to be the plastic surgery capital of the world. She explained that being a plastic surgeon in Korea is a very well considered job, and that the most popular operation was to get some eyelid removed to make the eyes appear wider and, as Koreans perceive it, more attractive.

What really kicked the conversation off was the revelation that I was learning Korean. Although my Korean is little more developed than a toddler's, she was enchanted by it. And I've found that when I'm speaking Korean I say a lot of things I'd never consider saying in English, Just because it's too brazen. So I explained to her in Korean about how long I'd been learning it, where and how I was studying, and who with. In Korean I told her that my teachers always had to be attractive because I could never learn from an ugly teacher. She asked me if she was pretty enough and how she compared to the Gin Girls, and I told her of course, and that she was my prettiest teacher. All of which sounds dreadfully pathetic in English but I imagine said from the voice of broken childish Korean may have sounded oddly appealing.

She helped me out with my Korean, although I'd had four coffees by now so was too pumped full of caffeine to be terribly effective. She's been an English teacher for a year, after having graduated in English in university, but I was her first Korean student and I think she enjoyed the novelty.

Suddenly we realised it was dark outside, and that we were both very hungry and we'd been in the coffeeshop for 5 hours. We went for a meal at a small Japanese restaurant that I like going to, and although she ordered the same thing as me (a big social faux pas in my book), by this stage I had noticed that she had a really quite excellent ass, and so I didn't mind. She gave me all her best Korean lines too; as well as complementing my awful grasp of Korean, she also admired my skilfull use of chopsticks. Many Korean do this, as if the thought of a Westerner using chopsticks is something quite incredible. However, I've come to learn that what can sometimes be perceived as patronising or rude is usually anything but - it's just cultural differences. That's why Koreans sometimes laugh at my Korean - it's never because they're laughing at me, it's usually just surprise because it's so unusual, and equally, their gasps of astonishment that I can say more than three words is meant to be encouraging, even if it can seem like the equivalent of patting a retard on the head for tying his shoelaces.

We went for a film after that - The Village by M. Night Shyalalaman, which was decent enough, hardly spectacular, although was partially ruined by the fact I really wanted to break wind for quite some time, but had to hold it in for the sake of etiquitte.

Our goodbyes were made after that, as we'd been together for the day and it was time to go. Se-jin lives and works in Seoul and was just visiting her family in Daegu for the holiday, but we agreed to keep in contact and I'll see her when I next visit. Besides the fact she had a very good ass, a good body and was very pretty, I believe she may have had a good personality too.

Wednesday was spent just studying a little more, and in the evening having dinner with Matt (returned from a jaunt to Singapore and Malaysia, on the way back from a wedding in New Zealand) and Rebecca. I broke the news to Matt that because of financial problems regarding having to find a lot of money to pay for renovations of a flat I own in Aberdeen, I can't travel to Russia next year and will have to spend an additional year in Korea. I may outline this in greater detail in a future entry. Matt wasn't too bothered, I think we both quite like the idea of another year in Korea.

Back at teaching then, and it's been fine as usual. I'm enjoying my teaching, I think I'm quite good, and I can certainly control my classes well. I like quiet, calm classes but also enjoy punishing children with humiliation or hitting them on the head with a marker pen, so my students have learned to conform to these ideals.

I continued my run of charming form on Friday. After work, the staff (minus anti-social David, who prefers to watch TV) got together and had a few drinks. All Korean, except me, therefore the conversation often was well beyond my grasp. The entire night Daniel was being glaringly obvious by trying to set me up with Cathy, an attractive but shy young thing. I'm quite I couldn't understand of what he was saying. However, I think - on a far more wholesome note - she wants to practice her fairly faltering English but has been too shy to ask me, so I might broker a deal for equal Korean-English lessons. As I said before, I can only learn from attractive teachers, and she definitely qualifies.

And that night too, while walking home with Jessie - the glamour girl of the school who is leaving next week to study English before beginning a career as a flight attendant - she dropped a big hint about needing someone to practice her English with. She does a little practice with David but he is an excessively ugly man and so needs a gentleman with a little more pride in his appearance (she didn't say that, that's just speculation). So I've agreed to meet up for lessons with her after she leaves the school. Which means I'll now have four young ladies under my wing for private lessons.

Anyway, today is a bright and clear day, free of the oppressive heat of summer as Autumn has finally arrived with graceful serenity. I'm enjoying the feeling of being cold once again. And so, I'm going to finish up now and do some shopping, and eat some chocolate cookies and drink some juice, and study Korean and listen to music and then meet up with Maebh (Irish girl who I'm back in contact with after a summer of hardly seeing her) to help her with her Korean, then meet up with Matt for a movie. So it looks to be a very delightful day.

And apologies for any overtones of lechery or sleaziness in this email, regarding women as mere chunks of meat. I can assure you that after studying a foreign language for many months and greatly cutting down on my drinking, my brain has got into gear and I have become a character that my mother can once more take pride in, after putting up with years of shame.